The Chiefs won in Port Elizabeth but the Kings continue to win respect through courage and conviction.
Super Rugby’s 2012 champions were made to fight for the 35-24 bonus point victory and their decision to twice kick for posts in the last three minutes was acknowledgement of the Kings’ effort.
The Chiefs led 18-13 at half-time and stretched the lead to 32-13 on the hour before the Kings produced an inspired 10 minutes to reduce the deficit to just eight points.
Many predicted humiliation for the Kings pre the season and in the last two weekends the Kings have played last season’s finalists and won huge favour with their commitment.
Home ground advantage and the emotion of playing in front of a passionate crowd has aided the Kings, but they really are struggling for quality players and already they have a handful of frontline players to injury.
It didn’t get any better on Friday when stand-in captain Darron Nell got hurt in the warm-up. Lock Steven Sykes took over the captaincy and he also left the field in the 60th minute. The Kings, in three matches, have had three captains. The attrition rate will only get higher for a team who have already won the hearts of the Kiwis and Australian neutrals because of their passion and refusal to be intimidated.
A week ago the Kings kept the 2012 finalists, the Sharks, tryless but they were always going to be stretched against the more creative Chiefs backs, for whom winger Leila Masaga scored a hat-trick.
Chiefs fullback Gareth Anscombe kicked well and Liam Messam celebrated his 100th Super Rugby appearance with victory. But the greatest roar again belonged to teenage winger Sergeal Pietersen who scored through an intercept.
Demetri Catrikilis also impressed as did No 8 Jacques Engelbrecht.
The Kings leave for New Zealand on Sunday and while they will struggle in the month overseas the side has exceeded expectation in the opening month of tournament in beating the Force and losing to the Sharks (by nine points) and the Chiefs (by 11 points).
By Mark Keohane